Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

by
Boasso American Corporation appealed an adverse decision by the Zoning Administrator for the City of Chesapeake to the Board of Zoning Appeals. The Board affirmed. Boasso then filed a petition for writ of certiorari. The Zoning Administrator moved to dismiss on the ground that Boasso had failed to name or serve the City Council for the City of Chesapeake, a necessary party by statute. Boasso then sought leave to amend to include the City Council and the City Attorney. The Acting City Clerk, on behalf of the Mayor, moved to quash service of process and filed a plea in bar arguing that Boasso’s failure to name or serve the City Council within thirty days of the Board’s decision was fatal to the petition. The circuit court dismissed Boasso’s petition with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a litigant who appeals the judgment of a board of zoning appeals under Va. Code 15.2-2314 must identify the governing body as a necessary party in the petition and must do so within thirty days of the board’s final decision; and (2) if those requirements are not met, the circuit court lacks the discretion to permit amendment of the petition and, if asked, must dismiss the case for lack of a necessary party. View "Boasso America Corp. v. Zoning Administrator of the City of Chesapeake" on Justia Law

by
A Suffolk developer set aside an Equestrian Center Parcel (ECP) for lease to a riding school and stable, with the stable to pay real estate taxes owed on the ECP. The lease expressly anticipated that ownership of the ECP would later be conveyed to a property owners’ association, which was subsequently organized. Although the stable could sell services to non-members, the lease required preferential treatment for Association members. The Association’s declaration included the ECP as Association’s property but noted that it was leased. The city began assessing real estate tax on the ECP in 2009. In 2012, the city exonerated the Association of liability for tax years ending in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The city again assessed tax on the ECP for tax years ending in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. No one paid the assessments. The city published notice that the ECP would be sold for non-payment of taxes. The Association sought a declaratory judgment that the ECP could not be directly assessed because, under Code 58.1-3284.1(A), any tax due was payable only by the Association’s individual members. The court ruled that the stable was a commercial enterprise and that the statute did not intend “open or common space” to include real estate used for commercial enterprises open to nonmembers of an owners’ association. The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed; nothing in the statutory definition excludes commercial property. Association members who did not board horses at the Stable used its picnic tables, trails, and parking area. View "Saddlebrook Estates v. City of Suffolk" on Justia Law

by
EMAC, LLC filed a declaratory judgment action against the County of Hanover and the Board of Supervisors of the County of Hanover (collectively, Defendants) challenging the Board’s decision to deny EMAC’s application for an extension of a conditional use permit. The circuit court granted Defendants’ demurrer and motion to dismiss, concluding (1) EMAC was required to prove that the existing zoning ordinance was unreasonable as applied to its property and that it failed to allege any facts to satisfy this requirement; and (2) the Board’s decision denying EMAC’s extension request was supported by a rational basis and was fairly debatable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in ruling upon Defendants’ demurrer and motion to dismiss, the court properly interpreted the allegations in the amended complaint and the exhibits attached to it; (2) the circuit court erred in finding that EMAC was required to allege that the existing zoning ordinance was unreasonable as applied to its land in order to state a cause of action; but (3) the circuit court did not err in sustaining the demurrer on the ground that EMAC’s extension request was supported by a rational basis and was fairly debatable. View "EMAC, LLC v. County of Hanover" on Justia Law

by
A county code compliance investigator issued Appellant a notice of violation regarding her property. The county zoning administrator then determined that Appellant had committed a violation. The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) upheld that violation determination. Plaintiff subsequently filed a petition for writ of certiorari to seek judicial review of the BZA’s final decision. Appellant, however, did not name the Board of Supervisors or any other party. The circuit court granted the zoning administrator’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Appellant failed to add the Board of Supervisors as a party to the proceeding within the thirty-day statutory period. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that compliance with the styling requirement in Va. Code 15.2-2314 is required to trigger the circuit court’s active jurisdiction, and no waiver to the thirty-day filing requirement occurred in this case. View "Frace v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
Lessee leased property owned by Owners pursuant to a lease agreement. A billboard was located on the property that had been declared illegal because it exceeded the permitted height limitations. Lessee and Owners filed a joint application for a variance with the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to allow the billboard to remain at its existing height. The BZA denied the variance. The circuit court upheld the BZA’s decision. Lessee appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by applying an improper standard of review when considering the BZA’s decision to deny the request for a variance. Remanded. View "Lamar Co., LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

by
The City of Richmond brought an enforcement action against the owners of real property (Owners) and the lessee of the property (Lessee), seeking removal of a billboard that Lessee maintained on the property, or, in the alternative, an order requiring the billboard to be lowered to a conforming height. Owners and Lessee filed separate complaints for declaratory judgment against the City, alleging that the City could not require removal of the billboard if the City had been paid taxes for more than fifteen years pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2307. The circuit court sustained the demurrers filed by the City and dismissed the complaint, concluding that section 15.2-2307 was “merely enabling” legislation and that private property owners did not have the statutory vested rights protections unless a local government chose to adopt an implementing ordinance thereunder. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by holding that section 15.2-2307 was “merely enabling” legislation. View "Lamar Co., LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

by
In 1957, special commissioners, appointed in a partition suit, conveyed to Wilkinson an 18.35-acre tract adjoining Route 704 in Washington County. In 1961, the State Highway Commissioner instituted condemnation, acquiring a 3.83-acre strip of land through the tract for construction of Interstate Highway I-81, leaving a 4.88-acre parcel north of I-81 that retained frontage on Route 704 and a 9.64-acre parcel south of I-81 that became landlocked. Condemnation commissioners awarded Wilkinson $1450 for the land taken and $2450 for damages to the residue property. After the condemnation, Wilkinson gained access to the landlocked tract for farming purposes by renting a neighboring 18-acre tract now owned by the Cliftons. In 2006, Wilkinson discontinued farming and ceased to rent the Clifton property. In 2008, the Cliftons, having failed to reach an agreement with Wilkinson’s widow for a purchase of the landlocked parcel, terminated her permissive use of the access lane and blocked it. Wilkinson sought a declaratory judgment that she had an easement by necessity. The trial court ruled that she was entitled to an easement by necessity. The Virginia Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that the tract did not become landlocked by a conveyance from a former owner severing a former unity of title, so no implied grant of a right of ingress and egress arose. View "Clifton v. Wilkinson" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2303.1:1(A), which provides that cash payment made pursuant to a cash proffer offered or accepted for residential construction on a per-dwelling unit shall be accepted by any locality only after the completion of the final inspection of the property. Here several developers and Williamsburg Landing (collectively, Respondents) made proffers to the County, which included per-dwelling cash payments, related to the rezoning of their property. The cash payments for some dwelling units made by Respondents were accepted by the County under the terms of the proffers after June 30, 2010 and prior to the completion of a final inspection of the dwelling units. The County filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, contending that section 15.2-2303.1:1(A) had no application to proffers agreed to prior to its effective date of July 1, 2010. The district court granted summary judgment to Respondents. The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that section 15.2-2303.1:1(A) applies to all payments of cash proffers due on or after July 1, 2010 regardless of whether the proffers were agreed to prior to that date. View "Bd. of Supervisors of James City County v. Windmill Meadows, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Landowner initiated plans to develop his property as a cluster subdivision. Landowner received a compliance letter from the county zoning administrator indicating that Landowner’s property met the standards set forth in the applicable ordinance. After the zoning administrator issued the compliance letter, the county’s board of supervisors repealed the ordinance. Landowner filed a declaratory judgment action against the county and the board, seeking a declaration that he obtained a vested right to develop his property as a by-right cluster subdivision in accordance with the terms of the ordinance. In support of his claim, Landowner asserted that the compliance letter constituted a significant affirmative governmental act under Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2307, which was necessary to find Landowner had vested land use rights. The circuit court ruled in favor of Landowner. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the zoning administrator’s issuance of the confirmation letter was not a significant affirmative governmental act; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in holding that Landowner acquired a vested right under section 15.2-2307 to develop his property as a cluster subdivision. View "Bd. of Supervisors of Prince George County v. McQueen" on Justia Law

by
James and Christine Garner sought side and rear yard variances in connection with a proposed single family home on their property. The City Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted to approve the Garners' application and grant the variances. H. Curtiss Martin and Virginia Drewry, whose property adjoined the Garners' property to the west, appealed. The circuit court upheld the decision of the BZA. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in its judgment because the BZA's decision was contrary to law. Specifically, the Court held that none of the conditions asserted by the Garners to justify their request for a variance satisfied the requirements of section 9.18(b) of the City Charter, which enumerates the conditions and justifications the property owner must show in order for the BZA to authorize a variance. View "Martin v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law